“Floating natural gas plants?” you might wonder. Yes, this is a real thing. In fact, leading energy business advisors Douglas-Westwood have predicted huge growth in the FLNG (Floating Liquefaction of Natural Gas) vessel industry world-wide through 2018. Due to the development of technology, many countries are moving toward floating vessels in order to import gas rapidly to growing cities. Capital expenditure in 2012 alone was estimated at $29 billion. Growing pains are inevitable. Most challenges concerning the construction and operation of FLNG’s are related to equipment, environmental hazards, and onboard safety.
Take a look at three major safety and environmental hazard challenges these vessels are facing.
1. Liquefaction Process
2. Location and Offloading
FLNG vessels will have to work side by side with carrier vessels for removal of by-products. There are all sorts of safety risks that have not been carefully assessed yet, from collision, fire, or explosion on the carrier vessel, to spillage during offloading which could impact the ecosystem. Who will be responsible for regulation or workers’ health, while the vessel is anchored in international waters?
3. Leakage Impact on Vessel's Workers
FLNG operations will need more risk management in place than an onshore LNG. Continuous assessment will occur. The industry is unknown at this time and at best is considered a very risky business. Workers will need to understand the hazards involved in working on a FLNG vessel. Preparation and communication is critical in such an unknown industry. Many countries are choosing to develop a fire and explosion response system aligned with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for FLNG vessels. This will include safety schedules, processes, labels and communication for all workers to be trained on (Pantry, 2012).